Statewide support will be needed for a successful 2022 Olympics bid |

Statewide support will be needed for a successful 2022 Olympics bid

Lauren Glendenning
Vail, CO Colorado

VAIL – As the only place to ever win an Olympic bid and turn it down, could the residents of Colorado unite and win a bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics?

They’re going to have to unite if the state expects to have even the slightest chance at winning a bid, said Steve McConahey, former chairman of the Denver Metro Sports Commission, the organization leading the effort to bring the Olympics to Colorado.

McConahey joined former Colorado Gov. Dick Lamm and British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell Tuesday night for a Vail Symposium panel about Colorado’s Olympic past and future.

And while the past might look grim, it isn’t enough to give up hope for a Colorado Olympics in the future, McConahey said.

Even Lamm, who headed the movement in the early 1970s that convinced voters to turn down the 1976 Denver Olympics, said he’s not against the possibility.

If it’s well-organized and transparent, it could bring the state honor, Lamm said.

The story surrounding the 1976 Olympics was a case of mismanagement and frustrated dreams, he said. Every time you turned around, the cost of the games would go up and up, he said.

“It was an absolute horror show,” Lamm said.

The Olympics don’t have to ruin cities, though, as Campbell has proved through Vancouver’s 2010 Winter Olympics.

Vancouver, which produced the Winter Games within budget, focused on organization and planning. Campbell said organizers wanted to be sure to generate investment and jobs, and the 2010 Olympic Games was the seal of approval.

“There’s no larger public-private partnership than an Olympic Games,” Campbell said.

McConahey said a Colorado Olympics would likely have two locations – Denver and a mountain location – and not be spread all over the state. And Vail and Beaver Creek, with racing infrastructure already being built for the 2015 World Alpine Ski Championships as well as the Eagle County Regional Airport just a half-hour away, are well-positioned to become the Colorado Olympics mountain venues.

The clock is ticking in terms of getting a bid together for Denver to host the 2022 Olympics. Denver first has to beat out about three other American cities that will likely compete with Denver for the U.S. Olympic Committee’s blessing in 2013 – Reno/Tahoe, Salt Lake City and Lake Placid.

“If we start today, we don’t have a lot of time,” McConahey said. “We need to build a statewide coalition.”

If Denver can beat out those American cities, then the clock is ticking for the International Olympic Committee’s decision, which will be made in 2015.

When Denver won the bid for the 1976 Olympics, the state put the question to the voters after the fact.

Campbell said it would be a huge mistake to wait on doing a voter referendum, if one is even needed.

“You have to show you want it,” Campbell said.

And whatever the reasons for wanting it may be – be it investment into the state’s infrastructure, for example, or simply the international recognition – none of that stuff matters to the International Olympic Committee, Campbell said.

“The obligation to the I.O.C. is to deliver the games the way they want them delivered,” Campbell said.

In 2022, it will be 20 years since an American city has hosted the Olympic Games – 20 years of built-up enthusiasm, McConahey said.

And Denver is better positioned than the other three American cities in the running because it has 10 of the 16 venues needed already in place. The hotel inventory is there, and American cities have proven to host profitable Olympics Games, McConahey said.

He said money to fund a bid, which could range anywhere from $15 million to $60 million, would have to be raised privately.

“I believe firmly these Winter Games can be successful,” he said. “I think we, as the state of Colorado, owe it to ourselves to take a look at this.”

Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or

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